Intent. Design. Creative Process. Teachers as artists of school change. #ASI2012 #MICON12


Last week and the week before, I communed with artists and designers. They invited me into their galleries and studios. At the time, I thought I was attending educational conferences – first Lovett’s American Studies Institute and then The Martin Institute’s 2012 Summer Conference. However, after watching and studying “John Hockenberry: We are all designers,” and after listening to NPR’s TED Radio Hour on “The Creative Process,” I realize that I communed with artists and designers at these phantasmagoria .

In the large-group sessions, I explored galleries of thinking – both from the featured speaker who held stage at that moment and from the co-participants “thinking and designing out loud” on Twitter (#ASI2012 & #MICON12). Through tweets, we talked about art and artists…designs and designers. During the break-out sessions, I literally traversed the museum of art and design in education as I chose to saunter past some works of art so that I could stop and peruse in-depth a particular frame and painting – like Bob Dillon’s “Picture This: How Images Impact the Momentum of Change.”

Our INTENT as educators and teachers is to design moments and experiences, while capitalizing on relationship and curiosity, that light fires in learners’ hearts and minds. We INTEND to stir emotions and motivations, not by filling vessels, but by lighting passions. We paint and sculpt. “We who cut mere stone must always be envisioning cathedrals.” Our lesson plans are blue prints and schematics. Our classes unfolding are jazz riffs and improvisations that can never be experienced again as they were played that day and period.

We are artists and designers.

And we are crowd sourcing. We are gathering as tribes to share our designs and our sketches and our framed pieces. For we intend to change the world – one student at a time, if need be. Our INTENT is to compare palettes and prototypes and to borrow from the masters and apprentices who gather around our conference fires to tell stories and share tales.

Please don’t think me dramatic or histrionic. I believe what I have written above, especially upon re-reading. I am moved by the artists and designers with whom I co-designed and co-created at Lovett and Presbyterian Day School. I see our paints mixing and intermingling as we contemplate and prepare for Teaching for Tomorrow and Connecting Across Disciplines.

Such is why I fear the silo-ing of subjects, disciplines, and departments. What if we don’t design with INTENT so that the colors might mix and re-mix? For we do not teach subjects. We teach people. And our people deserve the richness of infinite colors – mixed and complex.

What do you see as the INTENT of schools and teaching in the next decade and century? “What is school for?” Are you designing and creating such that our works are beautiful pieces of art WHO can inspire the world in the years to come?

Discipline and creativity must synergize, and we should check our INTENT so that we know we are using our limitations to enlighten that which can be possible next (from Abigail Washburn in the TED Radio Hour linked above).

What do you do?

I teach.

Oh, what do you teach?

I teach children.

No, I mean what do you teach?

I teach the curious to paint and design in this world with grand INTENTIONS.

Oh, so you teach art?

Yes, and math, and history, and science, and English, and… I use all the paints because my canvas deserves the infinite possibilities, and I refuse to limit what could be possible. I teach children and adults and learners of all ages. I teach people, and I learn from them far more than I could ever teach them. For they, too, are artists and designers. And I will not steal their dreams.

And what do you do?

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